How Long Does a Cord of Wood Last?

Basket with firewood on wooden background

As winter gets closer, it’s time to stock up on firewood. You may have heard terms such as rick or cord of wood. How many cords of wood will you need to make it through the winter? This guide will help you determine how much is enough firewood.

Firewood is one of the oldest sources of heat for staying warm in the winter. It is one of the most affordable heat sources. Additionally, it is a renewable resource that gives you freedom from fossil fuel dependence.

If you are new to homesteading, you need to learn what a rick or cord of wood means. (Hell, I never remember dimensions from one year to the next). There are also other terms are used, such as face cord, stove cord, half cord, bush cord, full cord, racks, and ranks.

A full cord of wood measures 4ft x 4ft x 8ft or 128 cubic feet. A rick is an unspecific word for a pile of hay or wood, but it’s often considered to be smaller than a cord of wood and similar to a face cord. A face cord is a stack of firewood that is 4ft high by 8 ft wide and 16-inches deep (basically a single stack of lumber stacked 4 feet high and 8 feet wide).

This post will cover how much wood you need to buy for winter.

See Related: Where to find free and cheap lumber

How Long Does a Cord of Wood Last?

image of fireplace in a lodge

The short answer is that a cord of wood should last about 2 months during your standard midwest winter. A cord of wood can have a heat potential of 24,000,000 Btu/cord. You’ll need 45 Btu per square foot to heat most houses. In Northern Illinois, a 75,000 Btu heater will heat a 1500 square foot house. If it runs 15 minutes every hour then it will use 450,000 Btu a day. In this case, a cord of wood lasts 53 days. (24 million divided by 450k)

Exactly how long wood will last requires more consideration, so let’s go through some examples.

A standard cord is a conventional measurement for buying firewood. You can also purchase a full cord or face cord. Firewood is not only used for winter but can be used all year round, for cooking and campfires.

Half a cord could last for as long as two months in rare situations when heating a small house under 1,000 square feet or during a mild winter. That means that a cord of wood could heat small homes for as long as eight to twelve weeks. If you have a supplemental heater, it might be possible for you to use a cord for six months.

What about if you’re heating a house that makes up 1,600 square feet? Here in Missouri, we can make it through the winter with 2-3 cords of wood. Further north, you can easily double that number. My cousin in Wisconsin uses 5 cords of wood every winter.

However, if the house is well insulated with no leaks, you can keep your wood consumption down. Spray foam insulation creates a tight seal and can make a significant difference in how much wood you need to stay warm.

Generally, a homeowner with a 1,500 square feet home will need to prepare at least three to four cords of wood.

A few homeowners with a 1,100 square feet house say that one and a half full cords could last them through the winter, only if the wood is explicitly used for heating. Thus, a cord can easily last two months.

Storing Firewood In Winter

Proper firewood storage needs a few circumstances to be met. For starters, it should be kept on an elevated rack, which is covered but slightly ventilated to enable airflow. Further, firewood must be kept a short distance from the home from your building’s exterior.

Far enough away that you don’t create a termite problem for your house, but close enough for easy access. Frankly, I like to keep my wood stack 20 feet or more away from my house.

See Related: Which Chainsaw Bar Do You Need?

stack of wood with axe stuck in it

Create A Foundation

It is crucial to keep all your wood dry from every direction. While you must cover it to keep the rain away, you must also safeguard your wood against moisture from the ground. Here are some ideas for creating a foundation.

  • Make a concrete slab foundation
  • Use bricks and boards to keep the firewood off the ground.
  • Use old pallets as a foundation
  • Place big patio stones under the firewood rack
  • Place a vapor barrier under the firewood rack

Any of those foundation options could be great deterrents to ground moisture. In addition, vapor barriers are the fastest and cheapest option, while concrete slabs require more investment.

image of pallets used to keep firewood off ground

Cover Your Firewood Stack Well

While firewood will absorb some humidity from the air, you want to keep it from getting soaked in rain or covered in sleet. Dry wood burns better. The moisture content of seasoned wood can be as low as 20 percent.

Firewood needs 6 months to season all the way. You need a good tarp that covers the tops and sides to protect your seasoned wood. Furthermore, you want to keep a path clear of snow between your house and firewood stack. My father would always store his firewood on the east side of his shed. This helped provide more protection from storms that move from the west to the east.

tarp covering firewood

Use The Oldest Wood First

When you store your wood, it is important to use the oldest ones first. That rule is known as first-in, first-out. When stacking wood, place the newest wood on the bottom and the oldest seasoned hardwood on top so you can be confident that you’re using the proper selections.

That approach also mitigates pests, stopping infestations that occur in a wood that has sat too long in the stack.

Hardwood vs. Softwood Burn Time

Hardwoods such as oak, maple and walnut will burn longer in wood-burning stoves than using softwoods. Hardwoods are made by slow-growing deciduous trees, and thus, the logs have a better density than the faster-growing softwoods from the evergreen trees.

Pine and Douglas fir are softwoods that are not a good choice for heating the house. They also tend to retain highly flammable resins that can start a chimney fire.

Since hardwood logs are bulkier than the same-sized softwood logs, they will offer you fifty per cent more heat output. For those stove owners, using hardwood logs means you’ll fill the stove less frequently than they would normally with softwood logs.


How Much Is a Cord of Wood?

The average cost of a cord of wood differs substantially by region, from as little as $100 to over $500. You may even notice both extremes within the same region.

For instance, a cord in California will run you as little as $100 in the Central Valley. However, it would cost up to $480 in Southern California. Here in Missouri we often pay $250 for a cord of wood delivered. The cost will also vary depending on how close to the winter you buy it.

Full Cord

A full cord is the standard 4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet size. When you order this, people will assume you mean a full cord.

Face Cord

A face cord or rick is smaller. It measures sixteen inches deep, eight feet wide, and four feet tall. It ends up being at least one-third of the amount of wood as a full cord. It would typically cost between $40 and $150, with an average of $80.

image of face cord of wood

Other Measurements Of FireWood

A cord is an official measurement unit. However, it could vary in some regions and be utilized differently by various firewood dealers. The firewood measurement of a cord is at least 128 cubic feet. A pile or stack of wood typically measures about eight feet long, four feet wide, and four feet high.

Commonly, people prefer to get the full cord, but you can also purchase woods in fractions of a cord. Here are their measurements:

½ cord of wood:

  • Volume: 64 cubic feet
  • Depth: 32 inches
  • Width: 8 feet
  • Height: 4 feet

A full cord of wood:

  • Volume: 128 cubic feet
  • Depth: 4 feet
  • Width: 8 feet
  • Height: 4 feet

FAQs on Cord of Wood

How can you get a cord of wood to last longer?

A cord of wood will last a little longer if you use seasoned wood. Much of the heat will be wasted on drying the wood if the wood has moisture. When you’re buying the wood, remember that the amount of wood you need and the cost you pay depends on the quality of the wood’s dryness.

Is a Wood Stove your primary source of heat?

Many homes utilize these primary heat sources: furnace, heat pumps, boilers, wood-burning or natural gas fireplace, wood stove or processed wood pellets stove, and electric baseboard or space heaters. If you can supplement your heat, it will reduce the amount of firewood that you need.

How many square feet are you heating?

It takes a huge amount of wood to heat a 2,000 square feet farmhouse than it does to heat 800 square feet home. Keep in mind that the bigger your place, the more wood you will need to burn.

You have possibly thought of that already. Still, it will help if you compare the square footage of your home.

Are you burning through the day?

You don’t need a fire running in your home if there’s no one in your house. That way, you can save lots of wood by burning it only in the evening.

Nonetheless, what about if you work from home or have a family member who is home throughout the day. In that case, you will be heating all day and will burn more wood.

Do you have good insulation?

Insulation plays an important role in wood heating. You see, having excellent insulation can substantially lower the amount of wood you need.

On top of that, good insulation makes things more efficient. If you’re purchasing firewood, that makes things a little cheaper on your part. It is also better for Mother Earth if you consume less energy or wood.

How often does it get below 15 degrees Fahrenheit?

Below 15 degrees Fahrenheit is freezing cold. This is very common in areas with cold winter temperatures. Here in Missouri, we have about 30 nights where it gets below 15 degrees. We are constantly shoving more wood into the stove on these nights.

Summary

As you can see, there are more things to consider when buying a cord of firewood. The best firewood will be hardwood source from a private party. And you will need 3 cords of wood at a minimum. 

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